Why. Can’t. We. Win?

Posted on March 22, 2012


Have you ever wondered why the US seems to be incapable of winning a war anymore? I have. I mean, we are involved in enough it seems. We have been involved in eleven ‘major’ armed conflicts since, and including our armed inception. Revolutionary War. War of 1812. Mexican-American War. American Civil War. Spanish-American War. World War I. World War II. Korean War. Vietnam War. Gulf War. War in Afghanistan. War in Iraq. And that is just the major ones. We haven’t decisively beaten anyone since World War II. Why is that? It’s not that I am a blood thirsty warmonger. I guess I just believe that any fight worth fighting is worth winning. If we don’t plan on completely dismantling a country or dictator and making them sorry they ever heard of us…what’s the point of going at all? If you are going to wage the kind of war I am speaking of, you better have had good reason for going to war. Pearl Harbor for example. So why? Why can’t we thoroughly thrash anybody anymore? I mean, come on. We have been in Afghanistan for like a decade? Are you telling me their military, or whatever you want to call it, is so big/good/equipped/efficient that it takes ten years to clean that country up to the extent they could be the 51st state? Something seems kind of wrong.

Is it lack of spending money? I doubt it. In 2010 we spent 680 billion dollars. 244.9 billion for the army. 149.9 billion for the Navy. 29.0 billion for the Marines. 170.6 billion for the Air Force. 80.1 billion on Defense intelligence. 118.7 billion on “defense wide joint activities’ whatever that is. That would make the US military the 8th largest country in the world by budget expenditures. Afghanistan ranks at #141 on the list…. The US, singlehandedly spends 43% of all the money in the world that is spent on military. If the US spends 680 billion dollars, who is second place? China at about 120 billion a year. Third place? UK at about 60 billion a year. Just from a pure money standpoint…we could practically beat the entire world….singlehandedly. So I ask again. Why do we seem to be struggling so much recently with actually beating people? We spend more on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (11.4billion)  than 130 countries did on their entire military. We have the second most number of active troop ready….second only to China of course. So, why can’t we win? I don’t think lack of money is the issue.

Lets look at some generations of warfare. Try to categorize some schools of thought and perhaps we might see a disturbing trend. Definitions given by William Lind.

First Generation Warfare

“First generation warfare is a term created by the U.S. military in 1989, referring to the earliest stages of organized, state-controlled armed forces waging war in the modern era. In its most common usage, “First generation warfare” refers to battles fought with massed manpower, using line and column tactics with uniformed soldiers governed by the state.”

What exactly does this mean? It is basically the ‘gentleman’s way of conducting or waging war. We all stand in a line and shoot at each other. Or more specifically, line up across a field from each other, and march towards each other and may the best man win. This generation of warfare rose after the  Treaty of Westphalia in which sovereign ‘nation-state’ were more fully established. As up to this time, military was largely the tool, and run by the ‘church’

Some of the effects of this generation are still being felt in the military to this day. It created a very controlled environment for warfare. There was developed at this time a military culture that is still visible in the armed forces of today. It was the rise of specifically crafted uniforms that set soldiers apart from the general citizen. This was the time in which ‘ranks’ were established to better organize men into easily controllable units. Rules for military drill were instituted and perfected, allowing line and column maneuvers to be executed with more precision, and to increase the rate of fire in battle. Remnants that we find today primarily on the parade ground instead of on the battlefield.

The demise of this generation came with the invention of breech-loading rifles and the rifled musket. Meaning a couple of things. One, quicker reloading, and more accurate firing. The obvious outcome was much higher casualty counts, in as much as this generation of warfare was not developed neither optimized for firearms. Wars in which we see this type of fighting exemplified on the American front would have been Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

to be continued

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